An Objective Structured Clinical Examination of Communication Skills for Child Neurology Residents

Dara V F Albert, Margie Ream, Nicole Verbeck, Todd Lash, Pedro Weisleder
Pediatric Neurology 2021, 114: 68-74

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to implement an objective structured clinical examination for child neurology trainees for formative feedback regarding communication skills. Effective communication skills are essential and teachable, but tools to formally assess them are limited. An objective structured clinical examination is one such tool, but these examinations have not been developed for child neurology residents.

METHODS: We developed nine standardized scenarios that highlighted communication challenges commonly encountered in child neurology. Child neurology trainees participated in three objective structured clinical examination events with three scenarios each over three academic years. Standardized patients portrayed patients or their parents. Each trainee-standardized patient encounter was evaluated by an observing faculty member using a modified Gap-Kalamazoo Communication Skills Assessment Form, the standardized patient who provided direct feedback, and by the participating trainee.

RESULTS: We refined the process of case writing, standardized patient training, and trainee evaluation throughout the three-year pilot. Results indicated rater agreement ranging from 32% to 56%. Trainees reported that the cases were challenging and reflective of real life and that the experience helped improve their communication skills.

CONCLUSIONS: An objective structured clinical examination can provide a standardized setting for formative feedback regarding communication skills in child neurology residency programs. The communication challenges posed by common clinical scenarios involving critically ill children, children with undetermined prognosis, and the triad of parent, child, and physician can be realistically modeled in an objective structured clinical examination. We developed cases and a process that were valuable and that we plan to sustain for resident education related to communication skills.

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